Outside the schema


The world has a funny way of squaring things up. Even as I wrote my post yesterday, I wondered if I was completely fair. It was true enough, but there was a touch of hubris to it. But then, within a couple of hours, that hubris was repaid when I got a message from a colleague advising that he had feelings for me. That’s right, he – a him.

Being a devout heterosexual, I barely account for the possibility of homosexual interest in me. It doesn’t fit in my schema because I can’t really conceive of, let alone imagine it. That’s despite receiving occasional, but regular, come-ons from men through the years. I reckon I’ve been propositioned maybe half a dozen times – maybe more – ranging from the forthright to the affectionate to the purely physical: an unexpected caress or pinch. Some, in hindsight, is quite amusing because of my innocent naivety. At the same time, I remember one particularly vivid invitation when I was informed that I’ve never experienced a true blow-job until it’s been performed by another man.

Yesterday I was completely blindsided. It came from a work acquaintance I had pegged as being socially awkward but well-meaning, and very likely a virgin. I’d never thought twice about his sexual preferences. Even less could I have imagined that he might be drawn to me.

I was flummoxed at first but quickly gathered myself. Ok, I said. I was conscious that he had put himself in a delicate position. Part of me wondered why he had bothered to tell me – surely he knew that I was interested only in women? But then I thought again. Life is neither as linear or as straight-forward as that. I’m sure he does know, but this is an expression of self – the truth, if you like, his truth. And so I suggested we catch up for coffee. That hasn’t happened yet.

Incompatibilities


Just before I woke this morning, I had a pleasant dream featuring an alluring woman. Though the dream was in an entirely different context, I realised as I woke that the woman in my dream was someone I used to work with. I wasn’t surprised altogether. We hadn’t been particularly close, though we flirted a few times. What she had was earthy sexuality. Dark and vivacious, she was womanly in all the best ways. She’s one of those people you just know would be into sex.

It was a pleasant enough dream, but it quickly fades. I’ve had a million saucy dreams throughout my life. It’s nice to reflect, then you get back to the real thing.

On this occasion, though, it made me think of the woman I have coffee with.

I’m none the wiser yet as to what she sees in me, though it might simply be down to my impressive good looks and charming manner. It’s not something I’ll normally dwell on, except that she seems an exception. I know the women I go for. I know the women who go for me. And while she might share some attributes with those women, she most definitely doesn’t others.

I enjoy having coffee with her and our conversations, but I’m not much drawn to her. It’s not that she’s unattractive – she’d be considered a reasonably attractive woman. It’s rather that she seems to entirely lack those elements that had me dreaming of some forgotten ex-workmate. There’s no sex vibe. To be clear, I don’t mean anything particularly raunchy by that, just that frisson will emerge between acquaintances occasionally. It’s an indefinable thing, and generally with anyone you get to know it’s there in some degree, even if only occasionally. With her, it feels absent.

I had to wonder if it might equally be me, except the feedback I get and general experience I have is that it’s quite strong in me. I’m one of those men that women know like them. I like sex. I’m always being considered a ladies man without lifting a finger to substantiate it. My appetites are undiminished, and I reckon you can always sense that vibe. And if I doubted it, then the friend I had drinks with the other week confirmed that just about word for word.

This is the thing, really. The women who like me generally sync to that, among other things. I think it’s a basic element of compatibility: you get each other on a chemical level. There’s much more to it than that, but I think that’s pretty central. I’m also a strong character, smart and confident, and that’s a type too. I’ve got a hard edge that’s hard to miss, even if I’m inherently kind and decent. The point is, I think this lady appreciates my intelligence and seemingly is fascinated by the life I’ve led, but I’d have thought those other parts of me would be more foreign to her. I mean, I can be brutal without even thinking about it, whereas she appears a softy. (I loved a softy once and admired her sensitivity and grace, but we also had a mighty vibe between us. She had IT.)

If my life attests to anything, it’s that I don’t really have much idea about women, and maybe that’s the lesson from this: desire doesn’t follow a formula. Or it may be there is no desire, and I’ve got it completely wrong. It’s not something I’ve thought about in this way until now. I’m not sure what I think. I know what I feel – not much.

I’m intrigued enough to go on. I wonder if I’ll happen across a secret that’ll make everything clear?

Courted


It seems apt to use what is an old-fashioned term when I say there’s a woman at work who is courting me. It’s not really what I’d call flirtation, though others might. Nor is it wooing (another archaic term), not in my books anyway. It’s slow and steady, a persistent and determined interest that translates into fascinated attention.

I refer to the woman who told me what an interesting CV I had, something she’s repeated about half a dozen times now, among other things.

I’m not sure how I feel about this attention. I never am. I’m a little bemused by it, wondering what the fuss is. These are intangible things, but what is it about me that triggers such interest? Surely it’s more than just a bunch of engaging work experiences? But, perhaps not – who can say? That is to say, this is entirely unexpected – which is odd because I seem to attract passing interest regularly. The difference, perhaps, is that mostly they are transient encounters, a moment or two in time. The difference is precisely in how I described it – courting, rather than chance flirtation.

There’s another aspect I often struggle with. As they say, it’s me. She’s smitten with me, it seems (another lovely phrase), but in my world, I’d generally prefer to be the smitten than the smittee*. The theory is that I can control it if the strong feeling is contained with me. That’s very often an erroneous theory, but it doesn’t stop me from sticking to it. In any case, once the boot’s on the other foot, I have very little chance of controlling it. I’m subject to the feelings of others, and that often makes me feel uncomfortable (that’s a conversation for another day).

The other thing, always relevant, is that I’m wary of becoming intimate with someone I work with.

As it happens, I like her. She’s a lovely, decent and intelligent woman. I’m briefly flattered by her interest, but that fades fast. Luckily, she’s an interesting woman with what appears to be an unusual outlook and back-story. That’s enough for me to be friendly, but no more at this point.

We had coffee yesterday. I suggested it, but only after she had reminded me a couple of times, she would be happy to have coffee with me. It seemed the polite thing to do. It was only 20 minutes, but it was fine. We’ve already got a coffee date arranged for next week. I’ll take it as it comes.

Which prompts me to reference the woman before, the woman I haven’t written of for months. I took the decision to take that offline, but in brief, I can say what had become a delicate relationship has repaired since. I discovered since there were cultural obstacles preventing anything more than that. I’m cool throughout.

*Yes, I know that’s not a real word. If you haven’t noticed already, I’m not above inventing my own words when it feels appropriate.

Don’t be in any doubt


Just a quick note regarding my post on Saturday. It’s now Monday and I’m back at work. I have to be pragmatic about the situation with the girl here. I can’t undo what happened before, and at this point I can’t even apologise as I’d like to.

I have to be patient and look to mend those broken bridges. For me it means being present and friendly and attentive. I won’t push it too hard, but I want to become a consistent part of her life. I want her to know I’m here.

On Thursday last week I was able to draw her out a little with some bantering emails. She was hesitant, but she responded. We went back and forwards maybe eight times all up with me teasing and witty and she gently joining the party. It ended only when a piece of news intruded on the conversation she didn’t know how to respond to (that I might be leaving by months end), though no response in itself is very much a response.

I think this is the best way to go. Don’t push too hard. Don’t ask too much. Keep it light as much as possible, but don’t be afraid of the real stuff if the occasion warrants it. I am by nature impatient, but must play the long game – she likes me, she just has to learn to trust me again. That can only be if I’m consistent and reliable and fun to be with. I will try and do what I advise others: leave them wanting more.

This marks a change, but it is a natural one. Before I would do so much and wait for her to respond. That was before I understood and though I’m fine, I have something to make-up. That’s okay, and in fact I find myself feeling warm inside wanting to do the right thing by her. What happens between me and her is important, but secondary to making her feel safe and earning back her trust. I want to do the right thing and that feels good.

Bad at these things


I was sitting on the couch last night watching a movie which was just alright and my mind was drifting to the book I’m writing. I’m figuring out plot points and points of view. I’m thinking up little bits of dialogue and description and trying to assimilate it into a whole. This book has some psychological complexity and I have to work at it to get it straight, but that’s how I like it. Anyway, I’m picturing a particular scene and the reaction of one of the key characters. I’ve had to shift from the perspective of one character to the other to make it true and as it comes together I feel as if it’s honest and real and unexpectedly insightful. Okay then I think, I’ll have to write that tomorrow, and off to bed I go.

I sleep as normal until about 4am, when I emerge into a state of semi-consciousness. There are swirling fragments of thought and remote feeling in me. It’s like something stirred up in the dark of sleep slowly settles as I set my mind to it. Eventually, a picture emerges from it. At first, it’s just there, a matter of fact thing, before my wakening mind begins to pick up on it. I test it with my conscious mind, unsure as yet as to what I’m really seeing, but sensing it all the same.

Finally, it is there in me something true but hidden from me all this time. By now it is getting on towards 7am. I twist and turn. My eyes open just before 7 and I switch on the news before getting up to feed Rigby and make coffee. It’s cold and I turn on the heater, then back to bed.

I close my eyes again full of this thing trying to figure it all together. How have I not known this? I wonder. A part of me feels bitterly disappointed. I pride myself of being sensitive and observant and yet this passed me by altogether and might have forever on if not last night pondering on my book – for what I wrote in my mind I realised belatedly had parallels in my own life. What I could craft knowingly as a writer and with some psychological insight I was oblivious to as a man. Till now.

A few things happened with the girl during the week and some of them promising, before ultimately disappointing. Though she came closer than for a while she did not take up the invitation. It left me in my usual state and vowing to do as I usually do, frustrated still, and puzzled. I’m not puzzled anymore.

For weeks after it turned awkward between us she would continue to greet me brightly. We would pass in the passageway or come across each other in the kitchen and each time she would acknowledge me with a smile and mostly an encouraging word. At the best of times, I’m not really that sort of person, and these were the best of times. No matter how many times she did it I seemed always surprised, and my response to her gruff and belated. Naturally, over time, she stopped, until there came a time when we wouldn’t even pass in the passageway or meet in the kitchen.

How ridiculous it seems now. Ridiculous I could be that way, and even more ridiculous that I could not see what was so clearly before me. How could I have been so blind? Because I was self-absorbed. It’s no wonder that she’s tentative with me now, and I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t trust me – something I suspect.

As I became fully awake all of this was present and clear in my mind. I was mortified and overcome with a sense of guilt. The sense of missed opportunity was swamped by the realisation of what I had done to someone I liked and respected. For someone who prides himself on being trustworthy and reliable, someone who strives to be a better man, I had failed badly.

This realisation made sense of so much that has happened since. As I said, I doubt she trusts me completely. She likes me I’m sure. She enjoys my conversation, my mind, my wit, and at times she is happy to engage with that, but commitment is beyond her. That is trust to some degree, and perhaps disappointment. All this time I’ve been thinking meet me halfway and I understand now that she feels as if she tried and I wasn’t there. She won’t do that again.

I can’t say any of this to her. It’s too confronting and too easily shrugged off. In the situation, we’re in it’s an admission of vulnerability that would be foolish to make. It’s on me now though. Somehow I have to let her know how sorry I am, and must, somehow, re-build that lost trust. That might come with familiarity, but mostly it will take honesty with her when the time is right.

Like I said, I’m bad at these things, but want to make it right.

As I feel


I’ve made a point in recent months of acting as I feel. If I’m positive about something I’ll show it. If I like you, you’ll know it. If I disagree with something I won’t bother to hide it (nor will I make a big deal of it in general). It’s all about being authentic and in the moment, and one of the benefits of it is that it doesn’t play into narratives and negates play-acting. I still have my secrets, I still retain my essential privacy, but I’m sufficiently transparent to leave no-one in any doubt about it.

This philosophy has been pretty well tested in dealing with A, at work. We’ve gone backwards and forwards. There’ll be times when I’m sitting on the edge of her desk and we’re talking easily and she’s beaming. Half an hour later the shutters are down again. Spontaneous interaction works better than structured, probably because she is taken by surprise. Sometimes you would think we hardly know each other, or never exchanged a fond word, but as if to mitigate against that an email will pop up from her more playful and girlish.

I’ve felt for a long time that fundamentally she likes me, but is wary of getting close to me. Perhaps that’s because of what happened over Christmas. Maybe she has something in her past that influences her behaviour. Or – and for some reason, I am beginning to believe this – she is inexperienced at these things and conflicted (I know she’s single and sensitive about it). Or maybe I’ve just got it all wrong and she just humours me occasionally.

Whatever, I’ve responded consistently throughout much as I’ve described. Fundamentally I like her, and that doesn’t go away. Sometimes I’m more sweet on her, and at other times frustrated. I’ve not lost patience, but when I don’t feel it, or when I’ve had enough for the moment, I back off a little. There’s nothing contrived in this, I’m still friendly when I see her, I just don’t try anything or go out of my way.

Things are – in general – a lot better than they were a couple of months ago, but this cycle keeps repeating. Last week I had run out of patience and had no real desire to interact with her. I was at the stage that if she walked in the room I’d be happier walking out because I don’t want to face that conflict. That didn’t happen, but it sums up my state of mind. She picks up on such things and the routine is that she will make an effort then. I’m a little cynical of that now because I know how it turns out. Last week I wondered if finally, this was it, I’d run out of patience. So be it if so, true to my feelings.

In the meantime, I’ve continued my normal life and, as I’ve reported previously, been feeling a lot better about it. I interact with a lot of people, some I like, some I don’t, some who are men, and some women. It doesn’t mean much more often than not, but I like to flirt if I’ve got a willing flirtee. There’s one woman I’ve probably flirted with since day one, but probably more so in recent times because I’ve had a lot more to with her.

She’s a smart, attractive, stylish woman. I remember when I first met her I thought I’d like to get to know her better. Still, there’s been no meaning in my flirtation, just a bit of fun. Then last week something happened that gave me an inkling that she was getting into it more than I thought. I know at least she likes me, how much I’m not sure.

Just the possibility of something cast me back into my own thoughts. She is quite different from A. She’s the sort of woman I think a lot of my friends could imagine me with, and perhaps I would have expected myself 10-15 years ago. She would fit in well. As I thought of her my mind gravitated to A.

How is A different? They’re both attractive women, though K is an overtly stylish, fashionable woman. They’re both very smart. That means a lot to me. I suspect that A might be more interesting – and by that, I mean more generally curious, with more stories to tell. She’s a great reader too, which counts for a lot too. Still, these are superficialities. There is an intangible – there always is. In this case, I wondered if that intangible was legitimate, or if it was, in fact, a bias.

I have a thing where I try to feel the future. Now that doesn’t always work so often times I’ll just immerse myself in possibilities and see how I feel. This morning I had just about the perfect conditions to do this.

I woke reluctantly at 7 with Rigby’s tummy growling. I got up and fed him and let him out and then went back to bed. For the next hour, I drifted between a pleasantly fuzzy half sleep and something deeper. In my vague mind, I tried to focus myself on K, but there wasn’t enough there. It’s much richer with A because I know her better and we have a history. What a dreamt about where the simple things that no longer happen. Once, I remember, she was sitting in the next partition to me at work. We talk all day without any of the self-consciousness that now infects the conversation. She told me about a book she was reading. It’s crap, she told me, but she can’t help reading it (there’s a metaphor for our relationship…).

The point is I felt fond and affectionate and protective of her. I felt as if we were intertwined, as perhaps we are. It was a very pleasant hour.

There are very clear signs I can read in that, but I just don’t know how true they are. I have a habit of hoping for too long. I was halfway to letting it go as being too hard. But then you know you like her. And you think you know her in some intrinsic way – that’s the intangible. You recognise something you can’t put words to, but it’s true. I think both of us feel that.

Where that leaves me I’m unsure. I guess in the end my aim was true – be as I feel, and let’s see where my feelings lead.

Dare to hope


Following on from what I wrote yesterday I’m trying to put it in true perspective. I reckon half the time you think you know what you think or feel, but even then it’s not always true. You’re apt to get caught out. Something happens and exposed is a previously secret emotion. You approach things rationally and logically and that’s perfectly fine except you don’t lived in a pure, untainted environment. In the real world good intentions and considered expectations get derailed by unexpected twists and irrational responses and, heaven forbid, your own sense of human feeling.

I know all this. I’m a very rational man but I’d be dumb if I didn’t factor in an often irrational world. So, I try never to be categorical. Black and white is a no-no. I have inclinations and preferences. I have notions and the odd hypothesis. Ultimately I trust more what I do than what I actually think.

It’s funny how we can be disconnected from our own doing. It’s as if there’s another realm wherein the body takes over. So you think this, but actually you do that. WTF? Yet you have to respect it. So many times this has been true in my experience.

This girl is a decent example. I’ve been hanging in there for a while and gone through different permutations of emotion. Sometimes I’ve been hopeful, other times upset, sometimes angry and occasionally exasperated. They’ve been the variables, but I’ve tracked well tracked the same line. Fair enough.

Now I’m just a bloke and by bread a bloke does not live alone. So while I’m yearning, while it’s still yet to happen and may never, I figure I can satisfy my needs elsewhere. That’s the theory. In fact – though I often feel great desire and am almost always straining at the leash – when it comes down to it I have no real urge to do something about it. Bless my cotton socks, but I want to stay pure – there’s a lot of me on the edge, but I really am a romantic, sensitive character to.

I say that – and yet, this is what I want to figure out. I actually had a very brief but pleasurable episode with a much younger woman about ten days ago. It was fun, guilt free, just what I needed. Then on Friday I’m sitting with another woman and I’m wondering if I can take this further and I know, I just know, that I don’t want to. I make my excuses and extricate myself. On the train home I rationalise it that it’s too complicated – and by that her place or mine, and the conversation on top of it – and of course I know it’s bullshit. I think of the few occasions when I’ve knocked back sex and how always afterwards I would shake my head in wonder: what happened there? In actual fact that was me being an adult, not a kid.

As I pondered deeper I realised that I didn’t want an episode of convenience. I’m past that banality. I want something real and felt, and fair enough now, and maybe overdue too. So how then do I account for the episode? I felt it, but what I felt wasn’t tenderness or affection and certainly not love, what I felt was a spiky desire. It started flirting and joking and suddenly it happened – it spontaneous and unexpected, therefore it was real.

I reflect on this as I consider A. I absolve myself of anything inappropriate, even had I gone with the woman on Friday. That’s the rough and tumble and life and I’m under no obligation. I choose to feel some obligation though because that’s what I want. I want that tie, that bond, that connection. I’ve never understood open relationships because what to me is some of the central tenets of love are done away with – faith, expectation, shared and poignant experience. To pour yourself into one other, and one only, and from here till eternity, well that’s my ideal.

I hope that happens. I hope the day comes when I can share some of this with her. Of course, there are many things I want to share – that’s what you crave when you become close to another. I want to crack myself open for her so she can read over my entrails. And vice versa. This is a different dimension altogether, much, much different to these transient episodes, even the highly satisfying. This is what I want I think, and what my body does too. We are in accord because the behavioural barriers between us are dissolving. It’s no longer purely hypothetical; I have entered into and accepted my own human feeling. And, perhaps too, as she.

She is shining now. I’ve never seen her like this before. She’s ebullient. I dare to hope.